Business leaders say only a couple of things are clear.
“Leaders at CCSD are going to go through two of the most challenging things any business owner goes through in their career,” said Bank of Nevada CEO John Guedry. “One is reorganizing their company, and two — the most challenging, changing the culture of your company.”
So Guedry and others in the business community launched the Executive Partner Program.
The program pairs business executive volunteers with 380 school district leaders — principals, associate superintendents and department heads within the newly revised central school district office — as a resource to make the reorganization process smoother.
Guedry said he hopes to eventually have 380 volunteers working one-on-one with CCSD leaders over the course of a year.
Around 65 business executives have made the commitment so far, and about 26 have started working with school leaders.
Communication is key
At a recent volunteer orientation, Guedry explained the value the business community has to offer.
“We’ve all been through some elements of this,” he told a group of three volunteers. “If you’ve been on the acquisition side of the merger, you know what it’s like to have to shift the way you culturally do things, because the buyer tends to set those rules. … If you’ve been on the acquisition side where you were the buyer, you’ve had to be very clear in your communication.”
Jeremy Hauser, vice president of entrepreneurial and empowered leadership at the Public Education Foundation, said communication is key to the reorganization.
Hauser is working with the Clark County School District to prepare district staff — starting with associate superintendents and several central school district office department heads — for the reorganization. The school district selected 16 associate superintendents last year to oversee up to 25 schools each as the district transforms.
“They’re at the very beginning of hearing the story of how things are going to be different,” Hauser said. “Once we articulate it and get the central people thinking about it, then you can start moving forward with actually taking actions.”
Hauser is also working with Guedry to match those district leaders with business partners.
Jeff Geihs, an associate superintendent, said an effort like the Executive Partner Program is “long overdue.”
Geihs was paired with a business partner in February, when the program was launched. He said the partnership is going “extraordinarily well,” and it is nice to have a “thought partner” just a phone call away.
The business community and education community are working together “in the interest of the community, which is to have positive results, meaning students who can go into the workforce or go into a college environment and then into the workforce,” Geihs said.
Hauser ended 12 eight-hour sessions with Geihs and 25 other district leaders Friday. School teams made up of principals, assistant principals, teachers and possibly support staff and parents are next, Hauser said.
Sessions and business matches for school teams are slated to begin later this month.
The sessions will again focus on the approach to the reorganization and then transition into how the reorganization will impact roles and responsibilities, including the budgeting process.
Gene Ward Elementary School principal Lea Chua said she already has a strong budget planning background, but she doesn’t fully understand how the reorganization will impact her current budget process.
“I’m one of the lucky schools where we’re able to look at the whole amount of money that we’re assigned for the whole year and assign and delegate money to go into licensing, support staff, supplies,” Chua said.
“I just don’t know how much of a difference it is going to be in the next year or two,” in terms of transparency of the budget process and incorporating more people into the budget conversation.
Chua said she would “definitely” welcome working with a business partner to ease whatever learning curve there might be.
“That would be nice to have a business perspective,” Chua said.
Partnering in a fishbowl
The reorganization is a “massive undertaking,” Guedry said while warning volunteers of the “fishbowl” they are about to jump in.
Business partners are about to be in the “limelight of the press, the legislature” and many others who will be looking over their shoulders, Guedry said.
“Everybody has an opinion on this, and they’re all sharing their opinions with district leaders,” Guedry said. “On top of that, you have disagreements at the very top, and then you have the trustees and superintendents stuck in the middle of that.”
Business volunteer Gregory Cowper, director of business development at MonteVista Hospital, said he wants to play any role he can.
“It is a huge challenge, and if there’s something that we can do to help in any way, we sure want to offer that and be supportive,” Cowper said.
Contact Nicole Raz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4512. Follow @JournalistNikki on Twitter.
The Legislature mandated a reorganization of the nation’s fifth-largest school district in 2015. The law shifts power away from central administration and offers principals, teachers and parents more control over their school’s budget, curriculum and staffing decisions.
Supporters of the reorganization argue it will boost student achievement and cut costs. Critics worry it may deepen the achievement gaps and lack of resources that already exist for schools in economically depressed and minority neighborhoods.
CCSD reorganization law, AB 394, passed into law
Clark County School Board trustees sue over regulations that accompany the law
Nevada legislators introduce new bill, AB 469, to ensure reorganization and render lawsuit moot
Bill clears both houses in the legislature, set to head to governor’s desk for signature
A massive undertaking
Jeremy Hauser, who is working with the Clark County School District to prepare district staff for the reorganization, said it’s been difficult trying to get everybody on the same page.
The conversation so far has been focused on breaking down and evaluating assumptions about the process and the approach to the reorganization.
“You’ve got to get everybody clear on why we’re moving forward,” Hauser said. “What is the value of principal autonomy?”
He said he is working with the associate superintendents first because they have the most power to impact change at school sites.
“Others (after the superintendents) can go to training, but if they return back to a work environment that’s exactly like the work environment they left, a manager or a supervisor, with a wink or a nod or a frown about whatever they learned in their training, can undermine and get rid of all that training work,” Hauser said.
As superintendents start to understand the approach and spread it within their networks, the next step is understanding how roles and responsibilities will change.
The way Bank of Nevada CEO John Guedry sees it, there are two “major areas” in the school district that are going to see a shift in roles.
“You have the central business services group that provides all levels of service for the individual schools, and then you have the education, curriculum, classroom group,” Guedry said. “And this group (of educators) that has always been responsible for classroom performance is taking on a much bigger role. They’re now running a campus and all that entails: facilities, transportation, food service and every other service that they need to operate that facility.”